Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Are you in balance?

Is something out of whack in your life? Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat the right mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber? Are you at an appropriate weight? Do you have enough time to spend with your family? Is your career fulfilling, or is it just a job? Do you engage in some form of exercise or physical activity? Do you find time to relax and unwind?

Several years ago, I asked myself these questions. I had gained weight during pregnancy, which (thankfully) came off when I went back to work. You might say "great, you're lucky". That was only one way to look at it. The weight came off because I was working long hours in a physically demanding job as a large animal veterinarian. I was probably stronger than I have ever been due to the constant pulling, pushing, and moving to and fro, but I was not leading a life in balance. My career consumed most of my time, as I frequently worked nights and weekends. Being a large animal veterinarian was a lifestyle. The problem was, I saw my clients more than my family, and with my husband working, our son spent more time in daycare than at home, and when he was home, he was colicky and cranky. My life was out of balance, as I had a fulfilling career and fitness, but not much else.

I changed to a desk job as a consultant, which had fewer demands on my time, and allowed me to focus on family. The problem became lack of fitness. My previously strong body turned to mush, and there was more of it. I had more time with my family, but did not have much energy due to my lack of fitness. I was not sleeping well (a direct result of a lack of activity).

I had to make conscious decisions to bring life back into balance. I had to plan meals and snacks carefully, schedule time to exercise, stick to a routine bedtime, and plan time for family activities. Balance takes planning!

If you are maintaining your current weight, then your calorie intake and calorie expenditure are in balance. You may not be healthy, but at least those things are in balance. If you have been gaining weight, there is a lack of balance in the calorie consumption department. This may be a symptom of a bigger problem. Go through the questions at the beginning of this blog post and answer them critically. Only you can bring your life back into balance. Start the necessary changes today!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Invited Post: Book Review “Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It” by Gary Taubes

Review by Kevin T. Morgan
Blog (athlete with stent), Website (Old Dogs in Training LLC)

Tweet review: Carbs in food bad. Fats in food good. Proteins in food necessary.
I was just about to revise this review, but first I had to take a bite of one of my favorite confectioneries that happens to be high in carbohydrates (carbs). Good or bad? I do not have much of a 'sweet tooth', which I attribute to the belief that my body ‘knows’ that I am a serious hyperlipidemic (resting LDL >2000 mg/dL), and it is carbs that drive up my blood lipids (and lower my HDL), not fats. Everything in moderation is my motto, including rate of change. I have, however, started to modify my diet based upon things I learned during this review, which included reading the book carefully, from electronic (e)-cover to e-cover.

This book is rich in observations, thoughts, ideas and reasoning, though it does come across as somewhat ‘evangelistic’ because, clearly, the author is frustrated with the deafness of his prime audience, the medical community, to his message; Carbs are bad for you! As they say in England, none are so deaf as those who will not hear. Gary Taubes presents a carefully reasoned case for the ‘Low Carbohydrate Diet’ when it comes to addressing the ‘obesity/metabolic syndrome’ crisis in Western, and increasingly Eastern, society. He addresses the usual suspects, including high fructose corn syrup.

The author's opinions are based upon a thorough review of the literature, consultation with anthropologists, and his own experience and insights. Furthermore, the low carbohydrate case is strengthened by his documentation of resistance to consideration of this literature by the mainstream science media and government departments responsible for advising on nutrition, which he attributes to a state of ‘cognitive dissonance’ [page 39 of eBook]. The author states clearly that they became enamored with the ‘low fat diet’, being “trapped in a paradigm” [p15].

Cogent arguments are presented with respect to populations in which many obese but financially poor women have emaciated children due to the type of food they eat (carbohydrates!). I found it fascinating how I had fallen for the same line as many others, that of accusing fat or obese people of being lazy and eating too much (sloth and gluttony) [page 33]. I now regret my role in this, and I will modify my behavior appropriately (apologies!). It is so easy to blame the person for the disease, rather than working hard to find the real cause. Fat enriches our lives, provides energy when needed, and beautifies our women [page 61] – what would life be like without the beauty of women? Three ‘laws of adiposity’ are presented to guide the reader:

  1. Body fat is carefully regulated, if not exquisitely so [page 85].
  2. Obesity can be caused by a regulatory defect so small that it would be undetectable by any technique yet invented.
  3. Whatever makes us both fatter and heavier will also make us overeat.

Just like the laws of motion in Physics, a great deal of insight can be gained by pursuing reasoning that proceeds from these rules, which of course Gary Taubes does for you. I have considerable experience with the biochemical aspects of Gary Taubes's arguments, and I could not find any reasonable flaws in them.

My real problem with this book, which I admire, is a personal ethical dilemma. My challenge lies with my preference for avoiding or minimizing meat intake as I really like non-human animals, and eating them seems disrespectful, to say the least. I have never fully embraced a vegetarian diet, mainly because I have found that it difficult to maintain. Something always feels wrong or missing after a few months (the longest that I have attempted this course of action). I guess that I will have to increase my struggles on that front as a direct consequence of reading this ‘iconoclastic’ tome. I strongly recommend that you carefully read, as opposed to skim, this book if you have an interest in the issues discussed. This work is an indictment of the ‘low fat diet’ and the ‘restrict food intake and exercise to reduce your weight' approaches that are so widely proclaimed. I look forward to reading the inevitable rebuttals, as this is how we arrive at the real answer to life's persistent questions

-k @FitOldDog

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time the avenger...

The most common excuse I hear as a weight loss and fitness coach is that people claim that they do not have time. Healthy eating and exercising is reserved for those who work part time, or not at all, and have all day to accomplish these tasks. We all have the same amount of time in our day. I know that some people work long hours (I am one of them), but we have to be creative about how we spend our time.

Healthy Diet: I spent 2 hours on Saturday creating 12 healthy recipes that can be assembled in 5 minutes and cooked in the microwave. I can prepare these on weeknights when I don't have an hour to spend in the kitchen. That was 2 hours I will never have back, but think of the time I will save using my recipes over the next several months.

Exercise: If you don't have 30 minutes to exercise (as is currently recommended 5 days/week), break it up. Take 10 minutes in the morning for a brisk walk. Grab a weight or resistance band and strength train for 10 minutes in the middle of the day. Follow dinner with a 10 minute walk at night, or play with your kids. Yes, this counts as your 30 minutes and it really is that simple.

One final thought, if you feel you have limited time, don't waste it. Activities like watching television and hours of Internet surfing or video-gaming may feel necessary and relaxing, but does it get you where you want to be? I have not turned on the TV in years and do not plan to start now. I use the internet as a tool to find things and to write this blog. And as for video-gaming, other than the occasional game with my 7 year old, who has the time?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3 Things To Consider When Starting An Exerise Program

Current level of fitness

Honestly assess your current level of fitness. Many people respond to an infomercial or attractive health club offers of weight loss and fitness and dive in without assessing current health status. Unfortunately, some people develop injuries as a result and are taken out of the game for weeks or even months. Most of the time, these injuries are preventable. If you have not been weight training, would you power lift 300 pounds on day 1? Of course not. Likewise, if you have not been walking, you should not go straight into running. Try short intervals of higher intensity and listen to your body.


So, you've started an exercise program and are a month into it. You are feeling good, and the exercise has become much easier. That's great, right? Not necessarily. Your body has probably adapted to what you have challenged it to do. This is fine if you are training for a particular event, like a 10 K race, but if you are training to get into shape, this is not what you want. It's a good idea to change things up a bit. Challenge your muscles in a different way. Try strength training, or if you are already strength training, switch from bands to free weights, or from weights to body weight exercise. For cardiovascular programming, switch from walking to jogging (if your body can take it), or add a day of lap swimming or plyometrics training. Alternately, pick a sport and try it. Play tennis with a friend or your child. Go for a hike. Ride a bike. Try mountain biking. You don't have to make a complete change in your routine, just switch out one day with something different.

Have fun

Most importantly, pick things that you like to do. This sounds simple and intuitive, but is often ignored. If pounding away on a treadmill sounds like the most boring thing in the world, chances are, you won't stick with it. If you enjoy what you do, you will likely continue to do it. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I am... Fill in the blank with 5 traits

Have you ever said to yourself, "I want to be thin and healthy" or "I want to be in shape"? I know I did, for years. And then I would resolve to make it happen, which would work for a while, but sooner rather than later, the old habits would creep back in. I know everyone has experienced this in some way, whether it be with work, money, family, or health. We all want to improve in some way. However, the "I want" mindset does not work unless it is accompanied by an all out effort to succeed. You know the type, the bull-headed people that muscle their way through life and always seem to get what they want, but with a hefty input of energy and time.

What if there is a better way? Well, of course there is or I would not be writing this. Think about the "charmed" person who always seems to have the best luck, always gets what they need and want, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. This is not luck or karma. This is a frame of mind.

If you begin to think of yourself as healthy or in shape, the most interesting thing will happen. You will make choices based on your frame of mind. What happens in your mind, without you even realizing it, goes something like this. "I see that ice cream. It looks good. But I am a healthy person, and that ice cream does not belong in a healthy person's body. So I shall ignore it."

Now, does that mean that you will never eat the ice cream? Absolutely not. Ice cream is delicious. But it means that the majority of the time, you will make decisions based on your frame of mind and not on your cravings. Over time, you will begin to crave healthy things, from good food to activity, and you will become what you are, a healthy person.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I know I should eat right, but...

How many times have you started a thought this way, and then finished with some reason that prevented you from accomplishing just that? The reason may or may not have been valid, and it really does not matter, as the end result is the same. Eating well takes planning and work, just like everything else worth doing. We put our time towards all kinds of pursuits: work, family, school, relaxation. Why not put time into educating ourselves about appropriate diet and then following through? You will need to plan ahead and possibly take food along when you are on the go, but isn't your long-term health worth it? Say to yourself, "I am worth a healthy diet", and start today!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why Do I Crave Carbs At 10 AM?

This is a common scenario, especially for those of us that work. Let me explain why this happens. Your body goes through an overnight fast (unless there was a midnight raid on the fridge). In the morning, you are in a hurry to get to work and maybe get the kids off to school, so you hand them a Pop Tart and orange juice and either grab one for yourself or get a much more healthy bagel (that was a joke). This "meal", full of highly processed simple carbohydrates, causes your blood sugar to sky-rocket. In response, your pancreas produces insulin to get things back under control. The insulin spike causes your blood sugar to plummet and voila, your body tells you that it needs fuel, and fast, due to the low sugar. It also tells you to eat carbs to correct the problem, which is why you proceed to the break room on the hunt for doughnuts, sticky buns, or another bagel. This continues throughout the day, week after week, and year after year, until you are overweight and begin to develop related health problems. Insulin resistance develops following this type of eating pattern as the body attempts to protect itself from the chronically elevated insulin level. Bringing things back into balance requires planning. Meals need to be balanced with regard to protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. Eating low glycemic foods and plenty of fiber will decrease the blood sugar rise and mute the insulin response. Plan your meals like you plan other aspects of your life. You will look great and feel even better.